We Didn’t Start the Fire

As we near the end of the year, there’s no shortage of reflections in the media about the best and worst of 2016. From albums and movies, to celebrities and politicians (or those who are despairingly both!), we’re ranking and re-enacting to share some lessons.

In the business world, one such reflection that can be useful is reviewing business blunders. Fast Company provides a look back at three public relations (PR) crises that could have been averted with better communications planning and PR know-how. And while the article accurately identifies the blunders that led to media issues, I’ll add my two cents.

  1. A PR issue is rarely a communications problem solely. Aside from the Cheerios example in the article, all of the issues stemmed from poor business decisions and deep-seated cultural problems within the organizations. By the time these made their way to the media, it was far too late. At that point, communicators assume the role of firefighters, trying to mitigate the fall-out.
  2. Don’t start fires, value your risk managers and listen to communications counsel. Every action you take – in business and in life – communicates something about you to your audience. That’s where a strategic communicator can offer real value. By helping you to identify what your proposed action will communicate, so you can ensure you’re choosing the right path in advance and are prepared to live with the consequences. This is basic risk management, folks, and incorporating communications planning to neutralize any potential issues that arise from a decision.

What I’m saying is, the communications function is not just about getting media hits or managing a social community. It is tied to every aspect of your business and you’ll reap the benefits if you begin incorporating a communications mindset at earlier stages rather than calling them in to clean up the mess. Many crises can be avoided by including a communications expert in your strategic planning and daily operations. A New Year’s resolution maybe?

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